University of Phoenix center in Kennewick closes

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldNovember 6, 2012 

The Kennewick student resource center for the University of Phoenix has shut down.

Spokeswoman Tanya Flynn confirmed the center's closure to the Herald on Monday. It was in a building near the intersection of Gage Boulevard and Steptoe Street.

While classes weren't taught at the center, it offered tutoring and advising and also supplied computers and other resources for students. It was not immediately known how many students it served.

"They will still have a lot of services online and by phone," Flynn said.

For-profit institutions such as the University of Phoenix have struggled in recent years with dropping enrollment, stricter scrutiny of their enrollment practices and an increased demand for online coursework.

Meanwhile, Columbia Basin College and Washington State University Tri-Cities have stable or increasing enrollment and now offer much of what the for-profit institutions pioneered -- flexible class schedules and online coursework.

"The barrier to entry is gone," CBC President Rich Cummins told the Herald. "Everyone can offer distance learning."

The University of Phoenix, owned by Phoenix-based Apollo Group Inc., announced in mid-October the closure of more than 100 campuses and satellite learning centers across the country, according to The Associated Press.

Flynn said the university also is phasing out its Eastern Washington campus in Spokane, but she wouldn't announce how many students the closure would affect.

Nationally, enrollment for the University of Phoenix is at 328,000 students, down 18 percent from its peak. Increased government regulations and pressure to enroll better-qualified students reportedly have affected enrollment.

Other national for-profit institutions, such and DeVry University and ITT Tech, also are struggling.

The University of Phoenix, founded in 1976 by John Sperling, made its mark in education by being among the first to offer flexible scheduling, such as night courses, to people who also faced the demands of family and a full-time job, according to its website. That effort eventually expanded to online coursework, and Flynn said that is where the school is increasing its online focus because of student demand.

However, many traditional universities and community colleges have begun to offer similarly flexible scheduling and online options.

Night courses regularly are offered for various degrees and programs at WSU Tri-Cities in Richland and at CBC's Pasco campus. Both offer coursework online.

"You never have to set foot on campus, except you have to come to orientation," Cummins said.

And while the cost of a college degree has become more expensive in recent years, the University of Phoenix isn't as much of a bargain compared to other institutions.

It costs more than $10,000 in annual tuition and fees alone to earn an associate's degree online through the University of Phoenix according to its tuition calculator, and $14,800 for an online bachelor's degree.

By comparison, tuition is about $4,350 per year at CBC and just a little under $11,400 per year at WSU Tri-Cities.

Cummins said a large number of CBC graduates continue their education through the University of Phoenix. However, that trend is shifting as Western Governors University-Washington has begun to establish itself in the state.

Cummins, who serves on WGU-Washington's advisory board, said the nonprofit school has more stringent academic standards and is more affordable than most for-profit institutions.

-- Ty Beaver: 582-1402;

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